You shielded your baby's delicate skin all summer. You dutifully slathered on sunscreen and insect spray, endlessly repositioned hats and sunshades, and vigilantly watched for signs of prickly heat rash. Now that we're heading into cooler temps, you can relax, right? Nope, sorry. Cold, dry North Texas winters bring their own unique skin irritants and delicate baby skin is especially susceptible. Here are 5 ways to keep your baby's birthday suit cozy and comfortable all season long.
Outsmart the unpredictable Texas weather … with layers.
New parents often overdress their babies with the best of intentions. Even in cold weather, overdressed (or over-blanketed) babies are at greater risk for prickly heat, overheating and SIDS.
Whattoexpect.com suggests that you:
- Dress your baby in comfortable layers; add one more layer than the number that you are wearing but remember to count a blanket, jacket or your stroller's rain cover as a layer
- Cover little hands, feet and heads; if you need gloves, a beanie and warm boots, your baby does, too
- Check for overheating by testing the skin under clothing, hats, gloves and shoes; your baby should feel warm but not sweaty
- Other signs of overheating include a flushed face and shallow, rapid breathing
- Conversely, an underdressed baby is susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia
- Hypothermia will manifest as lethargy or unresponsiveness
- Areas of frostbite may appear blistered and white or pale gray
Keep slathering sunscreen.
If it's sunny outside — regardless of the temperature — the sun's UV rays can be harmful to baby's delicate skin. Use a high-SPF, non-chemical sunscreen with non-micronized zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as the active ingredient. PABA-free is also preferable, as some babies are sensitive to it.
Just add moisture.
In your home.
The air in your home gets dry when you turn up the heat, leaching moisture from skin. Aim for a humidity level between 25 percent and 40 percent — an ideal level for the whole family but especially helpful for controlling eczema flare-ups.
Bonus tip: humidified air makes it easier for everyone, including babies (whose tiny airways and nasal passages are easily clogged), to breathe.
Use a cool-mist humidifier (it's a safer choice than a warm one, which can cause scalding burns if tipped over).
On baby's skin.
Baby's skin needs extra moisture, too! After bathing, pat baby dry (don't rub) and immediately apply a fragrance-free moisturizing cream or ointment. This "soak and seal" method helps lock in moisture to baby's damp skin.
Bonus tip: Fragrance-free is a smart way to go with all baby products: the American Academy of Dermatology lists fragrances as one of the leading causes of contact dermatitis, a type of eczema that can produce a red, stinging, burning rash.
On baby's face.
The combination of dry air, drooling and runny noses can make your baby's lips, chin and nostrils chapped, red and irritated. Keep this area as clean and dry as possible and apply a white petrolatum product, such as Aquaphor® Healing Ointment frequently throughout the day.
Be mindful at bath time.
Just like hot air, hot water is very drying. Keep baths warm and short; five minutes or less. Use pH-balanced, fragrance/irritant-free hair products and body cleansers. If your baby's skin is extra sensitive, try ditching liquid soap and opt for a hypoallergenic, unscented moisturizing bar, such as Baby Dove®.
Know when to call the doctor.
Redness and rashes are a given when dealing with infants, so it can be hard to know when to check in with your pediatrician or see a specialist. Generally, you can try treating the affected area with an OTC ointment or cream, but you should call your doctor if:
- Symptoms don't improve in 2 to 3 days
- Symptoms worsen
- Your baby is uncomfortable due to pain, itching, irritability or fever
Don't wait 2-3 days if the area is warm, swollen and painful or spreads over 24 hours; call right away. If your baby is bothered by eczema and the condition worsens, your doctor may prescribe a corticosteroid, a non-steroid cream or an antihistamine to reduce itching.
Adapted from ShareCare.